China has “both the responsibility and ability” to safeguard the stability of its border areas with Myanmar, Premier Li Keqiang said on March 15.
He was reinforcing Beijing’s strong response to a fatal bombing incident in China by a warplane from Myanmar.
“What happened was deeply distressing,” said the Premier when answering a final, but highly anticipated, question at a news conference at the end of the annual national legislative session.
“We have the responsibility and ability to firmly safeguard stability in the border areas between the two countries and protect the lives and property of our people,” he said.
Li’s remarks came after the Foreign Ministry and military reacted strongly to Myanmar after a warplane crossed the border on March 13 and dropped a bomb that killed four Chinese in Lincang, Yunnan province.
Since Feb 9, Myanmar government forces have been battling a local ethnic militia, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, in the Kokang region of Myanmar’s northeastern state of Shan, which borders Yunnan.
Heavy fighting has escalated mostly within Myanmar, but stray fire has caused casualties and property losses for Chinese people and more than 30,000 people have fled from Myanmar into Yunnan.
Warplanes from Myanmar had crossed the border “multiple times”, and China would take “decisive measures” should they cross over again, Ministry of National Defense spokesman Geng Yansheng said on March 14.
On March 13, China’s air force sent fighter jets to “track, monitor, warn and chase away” military planes from Myanmar flying close to the border.
The two countries share a 2,000-km border, much of which is in remote areas and hard to access.
During a phone call with the Myanmar military on March 14, Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, urged Myanmar to investigate the incident seriously, punish those responsible and apologize to the victims’ families and compensate them.
Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Defense Services, assured Fan that Myanmar will send personnel to investigate the incident jointly with China.